Kalamazoo MI USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 1, January-February 2007, pp. 22-24
Our nursing journey officially began in the hospital recovery room when Robert and Steven were less than an hour old. I was a bit groggy, but eager to start feeding my babies. The nurses quickly helped latch them on and my husband, Chris, watched supportively. It had been quite a journey getting to that point after going through trying to conceive, fertility treatments, preterm labor symptoms, restricted activity, and then making it to full-term. I was induced at 39-and-a-half weeks, as the boys were estimated to be eight pounds each. It was a surprise I'd made it so far, especially considering my petite 5'1" frame! After an attempt at a trial of labor (a day and half of pitocin with no progress), Robert and Steven arrived via cesarean weighing eight pounds, two ounces and seven pounds, six ounces.
We proceeded with our nursing journey. I was excited to finally meet my sons. We seemed to get the hang of breastfeeding, but soon after leaving the hospital we discovered that one of the boys wasn't getting enough milk as I wasn't producing quite enough for two. I was surprised at how tired I was, but found out that my iron count was very low, and started taking iron supplements.
Steven seemed distraught, crying often. Supplementing was recommended by the lactation consultant. We tried it and Steven seemed more contented. I welcomed the assistance with feedings from my husband and relatives, but I still wanted to return to exclusive nursing. After weeks of experimenting with extra pumping, trying medication to help increase my milk supply, and using a supplemental feeder, my milk supply didn't change and we began to settle into a feeding routine. I accepted and made peace with nursing and supplementing.
I found tandem nursing great and a twin nursing pillow very helpful. The first year was a blur between witnessing amazing developmental changes and stages, personalities emerging, pumping, supplementing, nursing, cosleeping, and routines. At some point before six months, I stopped supplementing at night and just nursed. I had contacted a local La Leche Leader who suggested this. I wished I had called her much sooner! It was easier for all of us and made sense since we were cosleeping. Most of our nursing at that time was at night. During the day, I fed the boys either formula or my expressed milk at the same time, and nursed them for comfort and snacks. I found it was much easier to feed them at the same time instead of nursing first and then offering bottles, which felt like double feedings on top of double feedings! At about five to six months, they started solids.
After their first birthday, I realized I'd hit a milestone and introduced organic whole milk, which they accepted. I transitioned them to cow's milk during the day, and continued with the night nursing as needed. I also gradually stopped pumping and just offered my breasts as needed. I wanted to experience breastfeeding in a more relaxed and natural way. I'll never forget the wide eyes and eagerness when I offered my breasts more during the day.
Soon we had a regular routine of nursing upon waking, before naps, before bedtime, and during the night as needed. The boys still used the nursing pillow at times and enjoyed playing with each other's hands or touching each other's faces while nursing. Robert would often fall asleep first. Sometimes Steven would gently try to put my breast back into his mouth, or he would gently pull it out of Robert's mouth. (He seemed to like the sound of the suction coming loose.) I have such fond memories of nursing milestones, such as when the boys could hold a breast in their hands and bring it to their mouths, or hearing them ask for "na-nas."
I found nursing to be a blessing on hectic days when it gave us time to sit together and calm down. When people asked me how I've stayed so calm with twins, I always reply, "Extended nursing!"
When Robert and Steven were 20 months old, I found out I was pregnant, a complete surprise as we had used fertility treatment to conceive the boys. As nursing was starting to become difficult with nipple soreness and fatigue, we began easing off constant daytime nursing. Robert was quite upset when distracted or refused from nursing, but quickly adjusted. Sadly, the pregnancy ended soon after we discovered it. Our old nursing routine resumed and was comforting to all of us.
I continued to gradually wean my sons from daytime nursing and, at about 28 months old, I decided to stop nursing completely. In hindsight, this was mainly due to pressure from relatives who didn't understand the benefits of extended nursing. I tried to stop nursing immediately. My breasts became engorged and I was uncomfortable and sad. The boys tried to be brave, but I could tell that they were sad, too. After about two days, we were back to our nursing routine, and it felt right.
I decided to continue to move forward with a gentle, gradual weaning. The boys had stopped nursing in the morning. For a while, I put on a turtleneck once they were asleep. They were not too pleased with the "red shirt," but adjusted. We had also not returned to extra nursings (such as when I was on the phone or computer) during the day. Naps gradually shortened and I knew that when they stopped napping completely, those nursings would end. Eventually, we were down to nursing only before bedtime.
About a month before they turned three, I found out I was pregnant again. I was scheduled for an ultrasound to find out how far along I was, and had almost a month's notice. We used this time to explain to the boys that once we saw the baby on TV, we would read and snuggle at night, but not do "na-nas" because the baby needed it. We continued to remind them each night. After the ultrasound, we stopped the nursing. Robert was upset for about 45 minutes and Steven seemed sad, but was okay just snuggling. The next night, and thereafter, there was no more fuss. For a while, both boys liked to rest their hands on their "na-nas" outside of my nightgown. They also seemed contented to just snuggle closely and read before going to sleep.
Every once in a while they asked to touch "na-nas" and even asked to try them months after they had weaned. I allowed them, and Robert latched on and off quickly and ran away laughing. Steven tried to latch on, but seemed to have forgotten how, and also ran away laughing. I asked him if he wanted "na-nas" and quite indignity he replied, "No! na-nas are for babies!"
I will forever treasure our nursing journey and the meaning it holds for all of us, as individuals and as a family. I look forward to another nursing journey with our third son, who will be born this spring.